Kentucky State Police commissioner explains why protesters are being kept out of the Capitol
Frankfort, Ky. (WDRB) -- There was another standoff Monday at the state Capitol between members of the Poor People’s Campaign and Kentucky State Police. For the fourth time in about two weeks, officers limited the group’s access to two people at a time.
“We're not allowed access to be able to speak to our constitutionally elected representatives,” said Jeremy Porter of Lexington as he stood outside the Capitol.
But KSP Commissioner Rick Sanders said the group would be allowed to enter if it obtained a permit to protest inside the Capitol, something Sanders said the group has declined to do.
“To say we're denying them access is just wrong,” Sanders said. “We offered them a permit today to come into the Capitol, and they said 'We don't need a permit.' But yet they’ve got a permit to protest outside the Capitol.”
Members of the campaign said they should not need a permit to assemble in a public space.
"I don't even know that it's constitutional, much less necessary,” said Frank Bills of Frankfort.
Sanders insisted the Poor People's Campaign is being treated no differently than any other group.
“Yes, the optics are bad that we're standing there like the black-booted thugs,” Sanders said. “But we're not. We're just trying to enforce the rules at the Capitol.”
Sanders said Gov. Matt Bevin neither ordered nor approved the two-at-a-time policy.
“The governor has had no say in what we're doing,” Sanders said. “We haven't asked him. He hasn't offered his opinion. What we're doing is what the state police does every day. We're maintaining law and order.”
But the Poor People's Campaign insisted the Bevin administration is intentionally locking out its anti-poverty, pro-environment message.
“I think it's pretty obvious that this group is being targeted,” Porter said.
“They are good people. They are peaceful,” Sanders said. “We encourage them to peacefully protest. They just have to do it within the limits of the law.”
Sanders said there have been a couple of instances of civil disobedience by members of the Poor People’s Campaign, including refusing to leave the Capitol at closing time, and drawing chalk figures at the entrance to the Governor’s Mansion.
But Sanders pointed out that so far, no one has been arrested.
“We don’t want to arrest these people,” Sanders said. “But they keep pushing the envelope.”
Spokespersons for the Poor People’s Campaign said they considering filing a lawsuit.
Several state legislators have asked Attorney General Andy Beshear to issue an opinion as to whether the state police policy is legal.
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